Published: Aug 08, 2016
There's no question that technology is changing how—and where—we work. According to a Gallup Work and Education Poll conducted late last summer, the number of employees who telecommute—whether full-time or occasionally—has climbed to 37% of the workforce, up from 30% a decade ago, and four times greater than in 1995, when just 9% of employees telecommuted.
But while attitudes are shifting, there's still a good chance that your colleagues don't believe you're actually working when you're working remotely: Gallup also found that only 58% of Americans believe remote workers are just as productive as their non-telecommuting colleagues. (Although that's still an improvement from the first time Gallup asked the question in 1995, when just 47% agreed).
With that in mind, here are six tips for staying connected if you're one of those workers who spends some or all of your time working from someplace other than the office.
1. Be Available
It's important to be available when your colleagues "in" the office are at work. You might need to start your day two or three hours early if you live on the west coast and the rest of your team is in the eastern time zone, or work later if you live in the east and your colleagues are out west.
Working in a time zone that's two or three hours ahead of yours might be easy for an early riser, but over-sleeping can put you several hours behind. It's almost lunch time in New York, while in California the day is just getting started; if you don't get to the office before 8 or 9 a.m., you are missing out on half a day's worth of interaction with your co-workers.
2. Pay Attention to the Time
Most of the time this is pretty straightforward, but there are situations—when scheduling a meeting or a phone call—when it's easy to forget to make the time zone adjustment. Keeping your computer in the same time zone as the rest of your team could make it easier to schedule interactions and will help you avoid missing appointments because you forgot to make the time zone calculation.
3. Pick a Platform for Conducting Meetings
Granted, there are times when a phone call is all you need to conduct a meeting, but sharing a presentation can be problematic over the telephone. Fortunately, there are a number of platforms available that include free services like FreeConferenceCall.com or paid services like WebEx that make this a lot easier. Most platforms will allow you to share a screen and even videoconference—so pick the platform that works best for your needs and budget.
4. Plan for Impromptu Conversations
Although email or a phone call are both good ways to communicate, an inter-office chat app can make it easy to have conversations that don't carry the same level of urgency as a phone call, but might require a quicker response than can be expected from an email. Many chat apps today also allow you to pass links and documents back and forth as well as video chat. There are too many to list here, but a quick online search will reveal many options you might consider using from your desktop.
5. Amp Up Your Web Connection
You may need to reevaluate your connection to the Internet in light of the tools suggested above. Is your Internet connection fast enough to accommodate a virtual meeting, video conference, or regularly upload documents, PowerPoint presentations, or image files?
6. Don't Forget to be Social.
One of the advantages of working remotely is the ability to tune out the rest of the world, focus and get stuff done—but don't let that keep you from interacting with your co-workers. Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but you don't want to become "out of sight, out of mind." Many remote workers successfully build fulfilling and productive relationships with colleagues half a world away. They do this by engaging with their co-workers the same way they would if they were in the office. Fortunately, co-workers a desk or two away often use a text message to interact with each other—you can do the same. Avoid the temptation to become reclusive in your home office.
It's easier than ever to communicate and work outside the office, but staying connected takes a little more effort. Technology is only half of the connection solution. It also requires an attitude and approach that makes connecting really happen.
Ty Kiisel is a contributing author focusing on small business financing at OnDeck, a technology company solving small business's biggest challenge: access to capital. With over 25 years of experience in the trenches of small business, Ty shares personal experiences and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible. OnDeck can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
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